Getting A Grip On Life English Literature Essay

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In today's Word Alive Derek Stringer is going to be talking about Getting A Grip On Life - that's something we all want. He'll be taking lessons from a great Old Testament character by the name of Caleb and how he managed through all sorts of ups and downs to Stay Strong.


Thanks for your help today Brenda - and thank you for joining us for today's Word Alive. I have the opportunity to travel widely and meet Christians in all sorts of situations - some very difficult indeed. I think that Caleb's story has something to say about Getting A Grip On Life rather than letting it slip from your hands so that you look back and think: "Where did my life go? What have I done that was worthwhile? What will count for eternity?


Caleb's story appears in a few bible passages but Derek's focus will be The Book of Joshua chapter 14 and verses 6 to 13. If you can follow along I think that will help.


I'd like to slip in a little notice here before we get going -- Radio allows me to communicate with you but not face to face of course. It would be really good to meet you. Word Alive is produced by Good News Broadcasting Association - and we have a special Bible Teaching Conference over a week-end in the Autumn. It's held in the English Midlands in a great venue. You can come for the whole week-end or as a Day Visitor. Please ask us for details - Brenda will pass on our contact information at the close of the programme. And - happily - she'll also be helping me out with scripture readings and comments as we go through our topic today.

In fact - Brenda - you start the ball rolling.


Jackson Brown originally wrote Life's Little Instruction book as a gift for his son who was leaving home to begin student life. Brown says, "I read years ago that it was not the responsibility of parents to pave the road for their children but to provide a road map, and I wanted to provide him with what I had learned about living a happy and rewarding life." Life's Little Instruction Book is a guidebook that gently points the way to happiness and fulfilment. The observations are direct, simple, and as practical as an umbrella.

"Most of us already know how to live a successful and purposeful life," says Brown. "We know we should be more understanding and thoughtful, more responsible, courageous and appreciative. It's just that we sometimes need reminding."

Sample entries include,

Be brave. Even if you're not, pretend to be. No one can tell the difference.

Never resist a generous impulse.

Never go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink.

The book has spawned a lot of other books with lessons learned from children to adults, humorous and serious.

For example,

One 7-year-old wrote: "I've learned that you can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk." The voice of experience speaks!

Then another wrote: "I've learned that the tooth fairy doesn't always come. Sometimes he's broke!"

A middle-aged person wrote: "I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be a pain."

Some lessons were serious,

"I've learned that you can do something in an instant that will give you a heartache for life."


Well -- I want you to meet an 85-year-old man named Caleb who had a good handle on life. We could title his life: "How to Thrive Aged 85!" And it applies to anyone who hasn't reached that age, too!

Someone said that "Old age is when you've got it all together; you just can't remember where you put it."


But how about this for a bible verse - Leviticus 19:32, "Rise in the presence of the aged. Show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord."

A man in his mid-fifties was standing on an airport bus. It was very crowded and there was a young woman sitting near where he was standing. She was gorgeous and she made eye contact with him. He's thinking, 'I may be in my fifties but I've still got it!' He's happy at this moment. And then she spoke to him. She said, "Sir, would you like my seat?" - which kind of deflated him a bit.

We have articles in magazines about anti-aging resources - because you're worth it! -- but the Bible is really kind of pro-aging. The word 'elder' is used 175 times in the Bible. And particularly in the Old Testament it speaks about how years can bring maturity to be able to mentor and guide those who are younger. And therefore, elders are to be prized.

Here's a Scripture you may never have considered before. Leviticus 27, "If anyone makes a special vow to dedicate a person to the Lord by giving equivalent value let the amount be set of a male between the ages of 20 and 60 at 50 shekels of silver . . . If it is a person 60 years or more, set the value at 15 shekels."

Thus the idea of a senior discount comes directly from the Bible. I'm sure that some of you didn't know that!


Let's read about Caleb-he had it all together and he knew where it was at! Here's Brenda.


Joshua 14:6 to 13:

"Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, 'You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. So on that day Moses swore to me, 'The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.' Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites [giants] were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, will drive them out just as he said.' Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance."


A Minister tells of displaying a Christmas Crib for carol services. After the celebration he noticed that the doll representing Jesus was missing. He looked around the streets and met a boy riding a new bike with the Jesus doll propped on the handle-bars. He said, "Why did you steal the Jesus doll?" The boy said, "But I didn't! I'd asked God for a red bike at Christmas and said that if I got it I'd give His Son a ride and that's what I'm doing!"

Benefits come our way and we can forget the God who enabled the blessings.

Caleb never did.

He serves as a good example of some important spiritual qualities.


Look at Caleb's example of persistence.

'Life' didn't start out too promising for this man. I want you to notice that Caleb wasn't a Jew. In the listing of the 12 spies he is referred to as son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite - and Kennizzites were no part of the Hebrew nation. So Caleb was a foreigner. We don't know how he came to be enslaved in Egypt along with Jewish people but maybe we have a clue in his name. You see 'Caleb' means 'DOG'! Now, would you call your son or daughter 'dog'? No, of course not. And to call someone a dog back in those times was a great insult. So this name hints at the fact that Caleb was of no value to his parents. He may have been abandoned, an unwanted child.

For years an outcast! That's bad right? Wrong! It can be the best thing to happen to you depending upon what you make of it.

I know a man who had a really rough upbringing and he envied a boy at school who seemed to have it all made. Years later he learned what had happened to the boy he dreamed of being like. He'd drifted through jobs, was divorced and very selfish. He prayed, "Thank you Lord that I was an outcast because it made a difference later in my life. I became sensitive to other people feeling lonely and insecure."

When we are left alone we learn to depend on the Father.

As a boy King David had experience parental indifference. Was that bad news? Well it's never good news is it? However, just note what David says in Psalms 27 -


He looks back and says, "Though my father and mother forsake me the Lord will receive me."


He gained special insights through those bad experiences. Caleb learned to use the scorn of others as a tool to grow a stubborn streak. A 'stick-ability' to God.

Caleb had been promised a piece of property 45 years earlier. Since that promise, he spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness with a bunch of dissatisfied, unfaithful, whining people.

Then under Joshua's leadership, Caleb spent the past 5 years fighting as a soldier against the Canaanite kingdoms. Even after 45 years, he still held onto God's promise. He said, "I remember God's promise to me, now give me this hill country!" He never let go of that promise-that's what the Bible calls persistence.


Has God given you a promise? No, He has given you 7,457! They are all yours to claim. But until you take hold of them, they don't do you any good.

An unclaimed promise of God is like not claiming a great prize. I tell you what's a lot sadder than not claiming a great prize-having the precious promises of God and not taking hold of them.

In order to claim God's promises, you have to read them, and then take hold of them-claim them. And then, once you find a promise, never release it-even if you have to wait 45 years for it to be fulfilled!

By the way, if you have a negative attitude when you are 40, there's a good chance you will not have a negative attitude when you are 85, because there's a good chance you won't ever be 85!

There are a lot of studies on this. Optimistic people have better health habits, lower blood pressure, better immune systems and likely to live 10 years longer than people with negative attitudes. How many of you are happy to hear that? And if you're not, you are in serious trouble.

Caleb teaches us to never give up on God or His promises.

A scrawny teenager attended a small school. He read a book on wrestling and asked one of the sports teachers if he would enter him in some of the wrestling matches in that region. The coach agreed to help. This youth was neither strong, nor skilful, but he had one enduring quality-he refused to give up. He won every single wrestling match, because he tenaciously held on to his opponents and wore them down. By the end of the season, he was undefeated and made it to the finals for his weight classification. His opponent was a two-time champion. As the scrawny youth faced him, the champion made a couple of quick moves, and soon had the boy pinned. The coach knew his athlete was about to lose, and he couldn't bear to watch it, so he turned his head away. Suddenly, the coach heard the roar of the crowd and when he turned around, his boy was on top of the champion, pinning him. He had won the match! The boy bounced across the mat and hugged the coach and said, "Coach, I won! I won!" The coach said, "Sure, son. But I missed it. I turned away just before you were about to lose, what happened?"

The youth said, "Coach, that guy was good. He had me twisted like a pretzel on that mat. But you know me, coach. I NEVER quit. I refuse to give up! So I opened my eyes, and there in front of my face was a big toe. I don't even know if it's against the rules or not, but I bit into that big toe with all my strength . . . and coach, it's amazing what you can do when you bite your OWN toe!"

If you're ever tempted to give up on God and his promises, just remember that teenager. Take a grip on the promises of God and never release them-God honours persistence.


In Joshua 13:1 we read: "When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the Lord said to him. You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over."


God needed a couple of octogenarians to seal the deal. You'd expect Him to say, 'You've done a good job; take a rest for a while, I'll use some of these younger men now.

God not only preserved the promise for the man, God preserved the man for the promise. Caleb was 85 years old before he ever moved into his own home. That's an age when most people are feeling like it's time to slow down and step aside.


Many of you are involved in jobs and careers that allow you to retire after a certain number of years. And some of you have already retired. Retirement from a career is a good idea-you've earned it, now go out and spend your children's inheritance!

Interestingly, the word 'retire' isn't a biblical word. Luke 12:19 has the idea. A rich man says to himself that he's building up his business interests and soon he'll be able to "Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." God sees him as a fool. He's planning for time but about to enter eternity and he's not ready.


6 times in the Old Testament we read these words describing Caleb, "He wholeheartedly followed the Lord."


And if you aren't following God with your whole heart, you're only a half-hearted Christian-and half-hearted Christians are faint-hearted Christians.

God has called every Christian to serve Him. And if you are following God with all your heart, you'll never retire from spiritual service. Serving the Lord is not a job; it's a life-calling.

The word "vocation" comes from the Latin word which means "to call." God has called all of His children to serve Him-it's your real vocation-and you can't take a vacation from your vocation.

You may think God can't use you because you're too old, or you don't have any special training or abilities.

One of the greatest servants of God in the 19th Century was a shoe-salesman from Chicago named D.L. Moody. He was never ordained and he never attended college or seminary. But one time, D.L. Moody heard a preacher, Henry Varley, speak these words: "The world has yet to see what God can do IN and WITH and THROUGH and FOR a man wholly committed to Him." And at that moment, D.L. Moody said, "By the grace of God I will be that man." D.L. Moody shook two continents for Christ-including England. He was so uneducated that he literally murdered the King's English. On one occasion, Moody was preaching to a crowd of very educated and sophisticated Englishmen. This next sentence reveals how poorly he spoke. He said, "Don't never think that God don't love you, for He do." As bad as his grammar was, God used him to bring thousands of people to Christ. He had the one ability God always honours-availability.

God isn't through with you-whatever your age. There are probably plenty of jobs in your church for you to tackle.

Remember, the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint, so keep on serving, keep on praying, keep on being available to God!

I realise I will never retire from serving God. One day there may be some young person who has hair like I used to have, and he will serve as I do in Good News Broadcasting - but I will absolutely never stop preaching the gospel as long as I have a breath in my body. As long as I have teeth I'm going to chew on the old devil, and even when I lose my teeth, I'm going to gum Him to distraction! May God give me and you the kind of endurance that Caleb had at age 85!

Out of the 2,930 individuals mentioned in the Bible, we only know the details of the lives of about 100. Of the 100 one third finished well. Of the two thirds that didn't finish well, most failed in the second half of their lives. Caleb is one of the minority who finished well. Although mentioned only 33 times in the Bible, Caleb was described 6 times as following God wholeheartedly. No other Biblical character was described with these words. Caleb was still a finisher at 85.


There are all kinds of stories about this. I'll tell you one. Paul Brand was a great doctor. He wrote some books with Phillip Yancey. Phillip Yancey said he admires Paul Brand more than any other man he's known. I want to tell you about Paul Brand's mother-Evelyn Brand. When she was a young woman she felt called by God to go to India. She was a single woman. You can imagine how much faith that took back in that day-1909. She met a man named Jessie. They got married and began a ministry to people in rural India-education, medical supplies, building roads, etc. Early in their ministry they went seven years without a single convert. Seven years without anyone coming to Jesus!

Then there was a priest of another religion who grew deathly ill and had a fever. Nobody else would go near him because it was so dangerous. Evelyn and Jessie nursed him as he was dying. He said: This God, Jesus, must be the true God because only Jessie and Evelyn will care for me in my dying. He gave his children to them to care for and that was a spiritual breakthrough, because then people began to turn to Christ.

They had 13 years of great ministry and then Jessie died. Evelyn is 50 years old. Everybody expects her to return back to her home in England, but she will not do it.

Are you getting older? Yes, of course! We all are. In fact, we're all a few minutes older than when I began talking! But never retire! I don't mean hang on to a job when it's time to make way for someone else. But keep keeping on serving your Lord.


Caleb had been a brave soldier at age 40, and we see he was just as courageous when he was 85. He was still ready to go out to battle. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the ability to face your fears and to keep on moving forward.

Every soldier who stormed onto the beaches of Normandy on D-Day was terrified. They weren't fearless-but they were courageous. When you are afraid, courage keeps you moving forward.


I found a good definition of courage:

"Courage is being the only one who knows how afraid you are!"


Well -- Caleb was still ready to go charging into battle when he was 85 years old. When you follow the Lord with your whole heart, you will never back up, shut up, or give up until you are caught up to heaven!

The Israelites had to conquer their grasshopper complex. 45 years earlier, Moses led them to Kadesh Barnea and they sent 12 spies into the Promised Land to investigate it. When these 12 spies returned, 10 of them reported there were giants in Canaan.


The Bible says in Numbers 13:33 "We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."


10 of the spies suffered from a grasshopper complex. They were already defeated in their minds, because they thought that they looked like grasshoppers to the mighty warriors of Canaan. They were only half right. They did look like grasshoppers in their own eyes. But to the Canaanites, they didn't look like grasshoppers-they looked like a mighty army. According to Rahab, the Prostitute who became a Princess, the people in Canaan had been trembling in fear of the mighty Israelite army for 40 years!

You may be suffering from a grasshopper complex, thinking you are too little or too insignificant to matter. If you hear "you can't do it" enough, you may begin to believe it.

An autistic student named Jason McElwain worked as the manager of school basketball team. Jason had never played with the team but for the last game of the season, toward the end of the game, the coach let him play. His first shot missed the goal by 6 feet. But pretty soon, he got hot. In the last 4 minutes of the game, Jason scored 20 points. After the game, the students and team lifted Jason onto their shoulders. I like his attitude. When you're different, it takes courage to get out on the field of competition and attempt to play.

Remember, victory comes in "cans" - defeat comes in "can'ts." So, before you claim God's promises and live in the land of victory, you've got to overcome the grasshopper complex. You've got to have the attitude of Caleb.

Caleb didn't deny there were giants there, instead, he said that these giants would be "bread for us." He was saying that in God's power, they would have them for lunch!

The wimpy spies were whining, "Look how big those giants are compared to us!" Caleb said, "Look how small those giants are compared to God!" The worry warts whined, "They're too big for us to fight." Caleb said, "They're too big for us to miss!"

God removed 603,548 men of Israel during their wilderness wanderings in the desert. Why did these have to die? Because they refused to mix God's promises with faith.


And now Caleb says: "Here I am today, 85 years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out. I'm just as vigorous to go to battle now as I was then. Now, give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day."

Question: What's the toughest battle to win against an enemy - on flat ground or against an enemy in fortified cities up in the hill country? Hill country is the toughest to take. Caleb asked for the hardest challenge.

This is so interesting.

Researcher's on aging have found this - Deliberately induced problems and challenges are required to keep your brain healthy and developing. God has wired us up so that our bodies, brains and minds require not comfort but challenges.

Rose was 87 years old when she went to the university. The first tutorial was a "get-to-know-you" time, and a young student sitting next to her beamed and said, "Why have you come to the 'uni' at your age?" Quick as anything, she said, "To find a rich husband, get married, have a couple of kids, retire, and travel." He said, "Seriously." She said, "Well, seriously, I just don't want to vegetate." She became the most popular student in the university. She became the banquet speaker for their football team. When she went up to the podium she dropped her notes. She couldn't get down there to pick them up again, so she held onto the podium and she beamed at everybody and said, "You know, life has taught me four secrets. One: find humour everyday in something.

Two: You've got to have a dream; you die if you don't have a dream.

Three: There's a difference between growing old and growing up.

And four: Have no regrets." She said, "The elderly people I know, we don't regret what we did. We regret what we did not do."

Two weeks after graduation she died, and 2,000 students came to her funeral. Your goal is not to live long, but to live now.

There's a poem I like. It reminds me of the attitude Caleb had, and the kind of attitude all of us should embrace.

Somebody said it couldn't be done,

But he with a chuckle replied

That "maybe it couldn't," but he would be one

Who wouldn't say so till he'd tried.

So he buckled right in with a trace of grin

On his face. If he worried he hid it.

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

That couldn't be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you'll never do that;

At least no one has ever done it;"

But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,

And the first thing we knew he'd begun it.

With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,

Without any doubt or kidding it,

He started to sing and he tackled the thing

That couldn't be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,

There are thousands to prophesy failure;

There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,

The dangers that wait to assail you;

But just buckle in with a bit of grin,

Just take off your coat and go to it;

Just start to sing as you tackle the thing

'That cannot be done' and you'll do it!

Most of the giants we face are ones we create in our own life, anyway. When it comes to spiritual victory, the old comic strip character Pogo, was right. He said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us!" I agree.

Do you know the one person in the church that I have more trouble with than anybody else? It's my wife's first husband-that guy really bugs me. (Just to make this clear - my wife has only been married once - I am her first husband).

In Joshua 15:14, we read about 3 of the giants that Caleb fought. Now, remember, names were more than just identifying labels, they carried meaning. Let's meet these three giants:


"From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites-Sheshai [that name means "who I am"], Ahiman [that name means "what I am'] and Talmai [which means, "what I can do"].


So, before you can ever claim victory, you have to face and fight the same three giants:

"Who I am" that's your ego;

"What I am" that's the enemy of pride; and

"What I can do," which is the enemy of self-sufficiency.

Certainly, there are other giants on the outside. But you'll never be successful against the external giants until you learn to defeat those 3 internal giants.


When you follow the Lord with your whole heart like Caleb did, you will be willing to face any giant.

Facing troubles in Borneo back in 1964. The Nepalese soldiers, called Gurkhas, were known for their valour. The British command asked a squad of Gurkhas if they would be willing to jump out of an airplane into combat against the enemy. After discussing it for a moment, the Gurkha sergeant replied, "Yes, we will jump out, if the airplane will fly as slow as possible only 100 ft. above a swamp." The British Commander said, "But that's too low. Your parachutes wouldn't have time to open." The Gurkha sergeant said, "Oh, you didn't mention parachutes." Now, that's courage! They were willing to jump out of an airplane without parachutes.

When you fight in the strength of the Lord, you'll be willing to attack hell with water pistols! That's the secret-utilising the strength of the Lord. Brenda!


Paul wrote: "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes."


In your own strength, you are as helpless as a newborn kitten. But when you depend on God's strength, you have all the power of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah!

You may face an uncertain future and it may seem victory is impossible to attain, but just remember, the word "impossible" is not part of God's vocabulary. It IS impossible in your strength, but you must claim this promise: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

Here's a poem.

It's about Caleb's courage that captures the valour of this man of God:

He stood before Joshua with flashing eyes;

"Give me this mountain before I die!"

"But Caleb, you're old and the mountain is high;

Choose a peaceful spot on this plain to die;

The people who live on the mountain are strong;

The battle you fight will be bloody and long."

His eyes never wavered as he spoke without fear;

"I've been promised this mountain for 45 years!

And as for the people being mighty and tall;

The bigger they are, the harder they fall!

For it's not my strength on which I'm countin';

For the Lord is going to give me that mountain;

So let's quit talking while it is still light;

For the Lord and I have a battle to fight!"

So, let's take to heart those lessons from Caleb-

Never RELEASE God's promises.

Never RETIRE from God's service.

And never RETREAT from your enemies!

If you will follow God with your whole heart and depend on his strength alone, you will still thrive aged 85! If God can do that for an old man, just think what He can do with someone like you!

I told you a little bit about Evelyn Brand - I'll finish this story now. They called her "Granny Brand, little old lady." She spent her life over in India, 20 years of widowhood over there. She is 70 years old and she gets word from the Home Mission Office in England. They are not going to give her another 5-year term. She is getting too old. She is kind of stubborn and feisty. She always wanted to go to the mountains and they didn't have the resources for that in India so the Mission Board said you are done now.

She had a party to celebrate her time in India and everybody there cheered her on and then they said: Have a good trip back home. She said: I'll tell you a little secret. I'm not going back home. I'm staying in India.

She had had a little shack built with some resources that she had smuggled in and then she got a pony. She still had to ride from village to village on horseback, 70-year-old woman, to tell people about Jesus. She did that for five years on her own. One day she fell off and broke her hip. She is 75 years old. Her son, Paul Brand, this eminent doctor, comes and says: Mum, you had a great run. God's used you. It's time to turn it over now. You go on back home. She said: I'm not going back home. God, give me the mountain, mountains of death.

She was 75 at that point. She spent another 18 years traveling from one village to another on horseback-falls, concussions. Finally she hits 93 years old. She cannot ride horse-back any more and for another two years the men in those villages, because they loved Granny Brand so much, they put her on a stretcher and they carried her from one village to another. She was 93 years old.

God, give me the hill country. You see, that's finishing well!

It is not about retiring comfortably.

It is not about having a great pension scheme.

It is not even about having a healthy body.

It is not about security.

It's about saying, "God, give me another mountain." It might look like Granny Brand, it might be a story that gets told-it may not. Nobody may know about it but you or God. It doesn't matter.

To finish well, to be a people that say: "God, we don't care about comfort, we don't care about security, we just want to have another mountain and then we know there is this other generation coming along and, God, we are going to be a place where we will sacrifice our own comfort, our own taste, our own convenience, our own resources to pass that phase on to another generation."



In the land of victory you will be too blessed to be stressed and you'll find there is more to shout about than to pout about!


Derek Stringer - thank you. If you have been helped through this message or want prayer we would love to have your call, email or letter. We do have a news letter sent free bi-monthly which will give you all sorts of information plus devotionals about Good news Broadcasting Association - or GNBA - as we call it.

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Thanks for your help Brenda and that of our Producer Phil Critchley. I'm Derek Stringer - thanks for listening. Good-bye and God bless you.